Speaking About Your Book: 7 Tips For Successful Public Speaking

MicI have recently done a number of public speaking sessions in my current home town of Brisbane, Australia. Most of these have been 1.5 hour sessions and a few weeks ago, I did my first full day seminar on “How to Write, Publish, Sell and Promote Your Own Book”.

I have been learning a number of things about public speaking so thought I would share them with you. I have recently joined National Speaker’s Association, but I am certainly not a highly accomplished speaker yet so these are only beginner’s notes.

  • Prepare extremely well, but then relax and go with it. My seminar was based on my 3 books and the last 18 months of experience, so you could say I have been preparing for a long time! I know my material and I am confident with it, but I still spent 3 whole weekends preparing for this 1 day seminar. I prepared the slide packs, organised the materials and venue as well as marketing it online and through various contacts. I had nightmares the two nights before and was anxious it would go well, but on the day itself, I just let it happen. I had done everything I could to make it perfect, so I relaxed. Once the people arrived, I was good to go.
  • Use Zen Presentation, not death by Powerpoint. Visual slides are almost mandatory on a full day/weekend workshop and I had prepared a fantastic slide pack for each session. If you are someone who does seminars or work presentations, then you must read Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery This book can revolutionise your Powerpoint and entrance your audience, and I used it as the basis for my sessions. Basically, it is about using strong images and keywords to convey your message, instead of packing slides full of detailed notes. Leave those for handouts. I get the majority of my images from Flickr Creative Commons, and the rest from iStockPhoto.
  • It’s not nerves, it’s Shakti. I learnt this from a friend and mentor, Robert Rabbin who I highly recommend as a public speaking coach. At one of Robert’s weekend courses, he taught us about Shakti, which is a creative, dynamic life energy flowing throughout us and the universe. If you are about to give your energy to others in speaking, you need to be filled with energy. Think of those “nerves” as the shakti flowing – you need that energy to give to other people, to perform and to speak from your heart. Think of those feelings as positive, and reinterpret the ‘nerves’ as Shakti. It really helps!
  • Be the expert people see you as, even if you don’t feel like that. This is something my business coach, Lisa Murray told me. Public speaking is about putting yourself out there as an expert, and if people want to hear you speak and enjoy it, then you are that expert. I feel like I am just one step ahead in the class on many topics. I am just keen to share so people don’t make the mistakes I did. You may feel that you are not an expert either, but I bet you are one step ahead in the class on your topic too! That’s enough to make you an expert in the eyes of your audience, so embrace that.
  • Be real and tell your story. People want authenticity and they want to see the real you. You can share your learnings and your problems without being less of an expert or compromising your position. I find sharing my lessons learnt to be the way I personally move forward as well as helping others (and you will find a lot of lessons learned on this blog!)
  • Respond to the audience, rather than enforcing your schedule. I found that at the dreaded 3.30pm slot, people were fading fast and I was talking about technical things like blogging. So we took an extra break and that helped to carry us through to the end. I had to cut some content but people were tired. I also took questions on the fly throughout the session and responded to people’s expressions like “what on earth are you talking about?!” when I got onto ebooks. Also, I would recommend taking feedback and using it to improve the seminar and your performance. I did little forms that I gave out at the end of the session for people to write their comments on. I keep these and add them to my database of testimonials and things to improve.
  • Have products to sell. If people are interested in what you are saying, they will naturally want more of what you have to say. They will want your books, your programs and more of your time. So let them have it. Make sure you have more products for them to buy.

Joanna Penn speaking at a Brisbane public seminar

Joanna Penn speaking at a Brisbane public seminar

I will be doing more seminars in 2010, and also I’ll be creating some products around them for people who don’t live in Australia.

I am also keen to speak at events, so please do get in touch if you’re interested in having me to speak live, or by teleconference. Email: joanna@TheCreativePenn.com

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Jim Ackerman says

    As an author myself, and public speaker for since 1990, I appreciated your insights. Every one of your points was spot on. I particularly agree with your points on slides and product. If you’re going to be a great speaker, you should realize that the Powerpoint is more for you than for the audience. Especially doing long sessions, your Powerpoint is more a guide to keep you on track than it is for your audience. As for product, if you really have value to offer, the audience will come away wanting more. It would be discourteous not to give it to them and the only practical and profitable way to do it is to sell them product. Failure to do is is failure to serve them at the highest levels.

  2. Judith Swartz says

    Well done, Joanna. I like your comments about Powerpoint which when not well done is a terrible distraction. I’ll be researching Robert Rabbin and Shakti. Keep up the good work and thanks again for sharing.

  3. says

    Great tips, Joanna. But one other very important tip I’d like to add is that everyone join Toastmasters International. I have been a member for 8 years and love it. TI is a global network of more than 252,000 members of all speaking abilities. And it offers members an opportunity to practice and become savvy in making presentations and public appearances … so that when Oprah calls, we are ready! See: http://www.toastmasters.org/ for more info or to find a club near you.

  4. says

    Thanks all.

    Jim – you’re right about Powerpoint and I find the images really help me remember what I wanted to say, triggering thoughts as opposed to reading slides.

    Judith – Robert is great and I always say “nerves” are shakti now – it helps a lot!

    Doreen – thanks for your tip. I did go to Toastmasters for a while, but also find National Speakers to be an excellent learning place for me.

    Thanks, Joanna


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *